Saturday, July 26, 2008

Garmin Nuvi 670 GPS Review

We’d been planning for awhile to acquire a car GPS, and after looking at the options and online reviews, we settled on the Garmin Nuvi 670. We were familiar with Garmin’s hand-held GPS units from wilderness search-and-rescue work, but this is a different beast. We’d also used GPS a few times in rental cars, and found them reasonably convenient but not essential. But we’ll be driving all over the back roads of Scotland for a month, and thought a GPS would be helpful. So we got this unit in advance, to see how it worked on road trips in areas we’re familiar with and ones we’re not.

The unit has an excellent four-inch-wide touch screen, and is easily viewed from both driver’s and passenger seats. The 670 comes preloaded with both North America and Europe maps – if you’re planning on using a Garmin in Europe, it’s much more affordable to purchase one with the Europe maps now rather than spending several hundred dollars to add them later.

Our favorite aspects:
The unit was great for finding gas stations (or restaurants, or...) in medium-sized towns, where you could aimlessly wander one small street after another. The gas-find aspect is also great while on the highway to find out whether you should stop immediately or wait a few exits. (Or if the gas station that the highway sign says if off Exit 10 is really there, or 5 miles down a back road to a small town.)
We also liked that it showed some shops, lodging, and attractions. On our California wine trip, we often didn’t know the physical address of a particular winery, but the GPS listed just about every one by name in its directory.
In general, the unit took us right to our destination along the shortest or quickest route. We seldom second guessed a routing, even in regions we knew well. The menus and screens are very intuitive, and the voice software usually pronounced names well enough to be understood.

Our significant complaints:
If you get off route (because you drove past your turn, or took an intentional detour) the unit never just tells you to turn around. It’s always trying to find a new route, even if that means going miles to the next right-right-left to get you back on your original route.
At least one town (it’s been there since 1900, so it isn’t someplace new) simply didn’t exist in the database. Nor did any of the town’s street names show up in surrounding towns. Oddly, the street names actually show on the moving map itself. The unit just said “not found” for the name of the town itself and all its street names.
It sometimes calls roads “Highway 78” and then sometimes calls the same road “Taylor Avenue” or some such. Maybe Taylor Ave. is the local name, but we really don’t want to keep hearing “drive 34 miles on Taylor Ave.”
We know roads change, but a major highway bypass that was completed at least five years ago didn’t show on one of our routes. (Our unit had up-to-date maps, and the GPS manufacturers suggest buying updates every year. Still, a change in a major highway five years ago?)

Overall, we were pleased. The unit is quite intuitive in inputting addresses, and most maps seem up-to-date. But we would suggest never following the unit blindly, nor travelling without a paper map for backup of any questionable routings. Still, we’re taking it to Scotland, and plan on using it extensively.